A Man Tried to Rob a Bank From the Back of a Taxi. It Didn’t Go Well.
In hindsight, it might not have been the best strategy.
On Feb. 25, 2021, a man got in a taxi in Hartsville, S.C., and asked to be driven to a bank. The cab pulled up to the drive-through window, where the passenger handed the driver an envelope to pass to the teller through the pneumatic tube system, prosecutors said.
The teller inside read the note, which demanded “all money from all drawers” and threatened “to kill and/or blow up the bank,” the authorities said in a statement. Frightened, the teller activated an alarm.
When the police arrived, they found the passenger, Angel Luis Masdeu, in the taxi’s back seat and arrested him.
The Hartsville Police Department, which has a recurring feature on its Facebook page called “Dumb Crook News,” shared an update about Mr. Masdeu on Wednesday under the headline “Dumb Crook All Stars,” a day after he was sentenced to six years in federal prison.
Mr. Masdeu, 59, who had pleaded guilty to attempted bank robbery, was “one of the dumbest of the dumb crooks we have featured,” the department said.
The Hartsville Police Department said Mr. Masdeu “made the unfortunate decision to rob a bank during a high point” of the coronavirus pandemic, when many bank lobbies were still closed.
A lawyer for Mr. Masdeu, who lives in Hartsville, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
The authorities briefly detained the cabdriver, but let him go because he “seemed dumbfounded,” an officer wrote in a police report, and “had no knowledge of what was going on.”
The driver told the authorities that Mr. Masdeu asked him to drive to a SouthState Bank branch, and said “he would pay him for his troubles and extra travel,” according to the report. On the way, they stopped at a Family Dollar store. Explaining that he had recently fallen off a roof, Mr. Masdeu handed the driver $20 and asked him to buy manila envelopes and a Pepsi, the officer said. The driver later told the police that he took the request in stride, noting that side trips are common and that he does not “ask questions or get into people’s business,” according to the police report.
When they arrived at the bank, Mr. Masdeu asked the driver to put an envelope in a pneumatic tube at the drive-through teller window, the authorities said. The teller read the torn handwritten note demanding money that Mr. Masdeu had stuffed in the envelope and activated an alarm.
The driver later told investigators that while he was waiting, he “noticed that he had a lot of blue lights in his rearview mirror,” the report states.
Officers from the Police Department in Hartsville, a city of roughly 7,500 residents about 70 miles northeast of Columbia, arrived to find the taxi, a blue Honda Odyssey minivan, in the drive-through lane.
“I did not have a good visual on the driver,” an officer wrote in the police report, “but I could see the passenger jumping up and down and digging in the floorboard. I could also hear the passenger yelling at the driver to ‘get out of here’ several times.”
Officers searched the van and found several envelopes matching the one that had contained the note, and part of a torn paper matching the tear on the note.
Mr. Masdeu, who the authorities said was not armed, was taken into custody.
A spokeswoman for SouthState Bank, which has 275 branches in six southeastern states, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
Judge Sherri A. Lydon, of the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, sentenced Mr. Masdeu to serve a three-year term of court-ordered supervision after he completes his prison sentence. There is no parole in the federal system, prosecutors said.
Lauren Hummel, the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted Mr. Masdeu, described the case as one of the more “out-of-the-ordinary” investigations she had handled.
“This is a very unusual case,” she said in an interview on Wednesday. “He tried to be creative but no matter how creative defendants try to be, we are still going to prosecute federal crimes where they occur.”